Republicans are gathered for their annual policy treat this week at the luxurious Greenbrier Resort in White Sulfur Springs, WV — an interesting location from which to discuss how to make it more difficult for people to access Medicaid and anti-poverty programs.
House Speaker Paul Ryan implored his colleagues to take up welfare overhaul as a legislative goal in 2018, and suggested clever ways to sell the idea as more friendly than denying poor, disabled and elderly people needed support. The irony of Ryan doing so from the sprawling 11,000-acre, 710 guest-room Greenbrier Resort with its 20-restaurants and lounges and 36 retail shops — as well as a golf course and a casino — is astonishing.
BREAKING: At the GOP's meeting at a resort, Paul Ryan lays plans to gut Medicaid and anti-poverty programs. It will be called "welfare reform" or "workforce development." https://t.co/s9HsTfrAcw
— Topher Spiro (@TopherSpiro) February 1, 2018
Ryan said Republicans should refer to it as “workforce development” — as if most welfare recipients are simply choosing not to work — and a means of “helping people” instead of a budget-cutting program, Politico reported. Ryan told lawmakers they should mask the cuts by selling them as “getting people the skills and opportunity to get into the workforce.”
Several Republicans told Politico that Ryan’s proposal would likely include imposing work requirements on would-be welfare recipients, despite the fact that a majority of those who receive public benefits are members of working families.
— Indiana Institute for Working Families (@INInstitute) April 19, 2015
Recognizing that terms like “entitlement reform” might not play well, House Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker agreed on the need for a rebrand.
“When we talk about ‘Medicaid reform,’ that’s not a great buzz phrase,” Walker said.
Walker, as if trying to undercut possible future arguments about welfare reform being a racial matter, also noted that 63 percent of welfare recipients are white — though it’s not clear if he thinks that makes the cuts more acceptable.
While Ryan’s obsession with eliminating the social safety net was supported by quite a few House conservatives, it was not as warmly received by Senators at the retreat, who weren’t sure full debate of such an idea in the Senate was possible.
“I don’t see us getting there,” said Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.
In December, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that attempting to gut Medicaid and conduct a massive overhaul of welfare programs could hurt vulnerable Republicans in a tough election year, Politico noted. Ryan reportedly agreed not to push forward with his plan in the House by using “budget reconciliation,” which works around the possibility of a Senate filibuster.
After voting for a fairly unpopular tax bill that many Americans believe benefits the rich, it’s understandable that Senate Republicans might be reluctant to risk their seats over Ryan’s plan. But Ryan — who believes providing food and medical care to the poor, disabled and elderly are what’s keeping the country in debt — seems difficult to discourage.
“We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan said on a talk radio show in December. “Frankly, it’s the healthcare entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, so we spend more time on the health care entitlements, because that’s really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.”
Meanwhile, the GOP tax bill could add $2 trillion to the national debt, according to analyses.